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Telecoms scour college campuses for AI talent

July 05,2017
Local telecommunications companies are looking for brains for future businesses involving artificial intelligence and big data.

Korea’s largest mobile carrier SK Telecom inked a partnership with Seoul National University (SNU) on Tuesday to create an academic course dedicated to AI.

The course will be the first AI training program co-developed by a private company and a school.

The class will be open to graduate school students in SNU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering from the second semester of this year, which begins in September.

While lectures on AI theory will be developed by professors at the university, SK Telecom and its affiliates will take part in hands-on studies related to AI. SK Telecom has developed a voice-command assistant it calls Nugu and SK C&C has developed Aibril, an artificial intelligence system based on IBM’s supercomputer Watson. The course is called “Nugu & Aibril with Watson.”

“We expect practical capabilities of those majoring in AI to be greatly enhanced by the course,” SK Telecom said in a statement.

The mobile carrier will choose some scholarship students from masters and doctorate courses specializing in AI. Selected students will be granted mentoring and seminar programs to build further capacity in AI. The selection, to be completed by July, will not be limited to students of Seoul National University, according to the company.

“In the era of the fourth industrial revolution, in which the speed of technological development and market changes is rapid, finding talent is an urgent need,” said Lee Ho-soo, president of SK Telecom’s information communications technology strategy division.

According to Lee, local ICT companies face a lot of difficulty finding AI specialists, which they need more and more. The company has sent representatives to give lectures on SK Group’s vision related to AI on university campuses to motivate students. In April and May, lectures were given at six universities including Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Korea University and Yonsei University.

Talent is also needed in big data analysis. “There are only hundreds of data scientists with expertise up to a certain level in Korea,” said Ian Huh, senior vice president for SK Telecom’s big data business. “Though SK Telecom has the most data experts among mobile carriers, the team only adds up to dozens.”

To spot talent in big data, the nation’s smallest carrier LG U+ started a competition Monday with SAS Korea, the local unit of the global analytics service company. The competition asks undergraduates and grad students to program an algorithm to recommend video content for individuals based on age, sex and past video viewing record data collected through LG’s mobile platform.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]